Book Review: Heartstream – Tom Pollock

“I just wanted to see you. Before the end. A taut psychological thriller about obsession, fame and betrayal, for fans of Black Mirror. Cat is in love. Always the sensible one, she can’t believe that she’s actually dating, not to mention dating a star. But the fandom can’t know. They would eat her alive. And first at the buffet would definitely be her best friend, Evie.

Amy uses Heartstream, a social media app that allows others to feel your emotions. She broadcasted every moment of her mother’s degenerative illness, and her grief following her death. It’s the realest, rawest reality TV imaginable. But on the day of Amy’s mother’s funeral, Amy finds a strange woman in her kitchen. She’s rigged herself and the house with explosives – and she’s been waiting to talk to Amy for a long time. Who is she? A crazed fan? What does she want? Amy and Cat are about to discover how far true obsession can go.”

Oof, this book! This book. If that blurb doesn’t grab you I don’t know what will. I could not put this book down, I stayed up way too late because I needed to know what was going to happen, I needed to know answers!

Initially I did find it hard to connect with Amy, I found her a little bratty and couldn’t gel with her – this did change throughout the novel as I got to know the character. Cat, on the other hand, I instantly connected to and wanted to know more about her and her life – overall I did prefer Cat as a character.

It took me a long while to understand what the connection between Amy and Cat and it drove me a little crazy, then when it dawned on me I definitely gasped out loud and continued racing through. This also broke me out of a slump I was having and made me interested in thrillers again.

While I did work out a few elements before they happened that was towards the end and I still had some shock moments. Pollock can clearly write a thriller that feels new and I can’t remember the last time I read one of those.

I found it really interesting how the plot centers around technology and emotion. We don’t know where technology and streaming is going to go and while this is a terrifying possibility it’s also fascinating because I think people would subscribe to this and use it in the real world. That said the positives and negatives are both there, which adds a great sense of balance.

I gave this 4 stars, a really strong book and that ending…THAT ENDING. I definitely need to know more and while I doubt there will be a follow up, I would read it within a second – I need to know what happens after! A strong thriller that I would definitely recommend for someone looking for something a little different with a technology twist.

Book Review: Sadie – Courtney Summers

When Sadie’s younger sister Mattie is found dead, her world is shattered. After spending the last 13 years raising her the only thing on her mind is revenge. She’s going to hunt down her sisters killer and he’s next. Told through the perspective of Sadie herself and a Podcast host trying to solve the mystery of Mattie’s death and Sadie’s own disappearance.

This is a novel that has taken the book world by storm I have seen it over countless blogs, Bookstagram, Booktube (yeah, I really like books). I finally found a copy in London and had to buy it to see what all the fuss was about. It’s been a really long time since I’ve read a good YA suspense novel so why not?

I really enjoyed the way in which the novel was set out, switching between Sadie herself and Podcaster Matt gave an extra something to it. I’ve also been told that Macmillen recorded an actual podcast to go along with the book. From the two perspectives, you get to learn a lot more about Sadie and her life without it being forced on you. I don’t know if this would work time and time again, however, in this instance it did.

It was a real page-turner, I couldn’t put it down. When I had that book in my hand I was racing through with questions. What happened to Mattie? Is Sadie going to find the killer? Does Sadie know what she’s getting herself into here? I needed to know what was happening and for the majority of the novel, I felt like this.

There were some points within the novel that I felt things were just a little too coincidental and some of the twists and turns were a little predictable. That said, I really do understand how it got the attention it did. This is a fast-paced novel that has an interesting way of telling a story. For that reason, I really do think it is worth a look if this sounds interesting to you.

I feel that this is a 3.5 star read. I really, really, wanted to love it as much as every else has but the end just ruined it for me. Without spoilers, I just felt like it could have ended better. I still had so many questions and felt a little irritated by it. I wish I could say more but I don’t want to spoil it for you!

Book Review: Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee by Mary G Thompson


Two girls are kidnapped, after six years Amy returns to her mother’s doorstep. What happened to her best friend and cousin, Dee? Is she alive? And why won’t Amy tell anyone what happened in those six years?

I have no doubt this was a difficult novel to write because it is an uncomfortable read. The girls are kidnapped and as you can imagine it’s not sweetness and light. There is kidnap, violence and abuse. The nightmare that 16-year-old Amy has endured hasn’t ended. She must keep quiet or those she loves most will suffer.

Wow, this novel is dark but incredibly gripping. I picked this up at YALC earlier in the year and it did not disappoint. There’s an element of mystery, thriller and heartbreak. This is a page turner, I read this within 24 hours and between that, I slept and went to see a musical so that should give you an inclination of how much of a pageturner it was.

It was also interesting to see the perspective of someone who is still bound by their captor and not in a traditional sense. The character of Amy is incredibly complex and this shows throughout the novel. The idea of someone returning to the world after losing the majority of their childhood is interesting, particularly how they navigate the outside world.

I gave this 4 stars. It feels wrong to say I enjoyed it? This is, of course, a tough subject matter but the novel is incredibly well written. The pacing is perfect for the novel and there is the right amount of information and mystery. That said it didn’t get the full 5 stars because there were certain points I didn’t feel were completely realistic to the situation such as lack of medical. I did enjoy it but there were some things I’d like to have seen. Either way, I’d highly recommend this novel.

Book Review: Bad Girls With Perfect Faces – Lyn Weingarten


How far would you go to protect your best friend?

All Sasha wants to do is protect Xavier from Ivy, from what she can do, but how far is she willing to go? Posing as a guy online to lure Ivy away is just the start…

Going in I feel I need to say that this novel gets dark pretty quickly, but it’s definitely what was needed. From this, it creates a brilliant atmosphere for the rest of the novel. It has darkness, intrigue and while at times there is some cliché moments, particularly in the beginning this evolves throughout the novel.

I wanted to start by saying that I didn’t particularly find any of these characters likeable and for that, I give Weingarten full credit. I found each of the characters to be quite selfish and while they claimed that their actions were out of love, it appeared to be more about themselves rather than anything.

The novel looks at the dangers of a life online, who someone is really speaking to as well as what relationships mean. Told in multiple points of view throughout, you can clearly see the motivations of the characters and what they hide from themselves and each other.

Overall I gave this 3 stars. While I enjoyed the novel, I was able to guess quite a few of the plot twists that were coming up. I don’t know if that’s just because I’ve read a lot of thrillers or it’s a reflection of the novel. Saying that I did still enjoy the novel and would love to see another on what the characters lives were like 10 years later if they were to meet again. So, not my favourite Weingarten novel, but I’d still recommend it.

Thank you so much to Netgalley, the publisher and author for this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Feminist Friday: The ‘Girls’ in modern thrillers

Have you ever noticed a trend in modern thrillers? The Girl on the Train, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl or the other couple of thousands I found when I typed in ‘The Girl’ into a thriller search. I can hear some, what’s the problem? Are you making a mountain out of a molehill here?! When this was initially pointed out to me I wondered the same thing but it goes deeper than that. In all of the books that I’ve read with a similar title, there is no ‘girl’, just a grown woman. So, why are publishers so persistent in presenting them this way?

Now, it could be as simple as this is a catchier title, but I’m not buying it. It seems to go further. When we hear the word girl as a society there are connotations of weakness, naivety and childishness. I know for a fact in ‘Gone Girl’ and ‘The Girl on the Train’ both of these characters aren’t seen as reliable narrators, which is only added to the fact that they are referred to as ‘girls’ in the title.  If we switch this, trying to find instances of men being called boys is incredibly low. Which just screams inequality to me.

I’m aware that this isn’t a huge issue, that this isn’t the most important thing that feminism should address but it is an issue. It just shows how there is a, sometimes unconscious, bias against women in our everyday language. I’m not a linguist but even I can see that by branding these women ‘girls’ we are doing women a disservice. If you’ve ever read Gone Girl for example, Amy is not a one-dimensional character, far from it, nor is Rachel from The Girl on the Train.

It’s definitely something I think we should be mindful of. Call these characters what they are, women! It’s just something that has been playing on my mind. As always let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Book Review: The One – John Marrs


If you could meet your perfect DNA match, why wouldn’t you do it?

A new relationship revolution is happening. After a gene is discovered to match you to ‘the one’ thousands find unimaginable happiness with the person they’re meant to be with, but the path of true love never runs smooth.

Now, personally, I just found the idea of this super creepy, which instantly makes it a novel I want to read. The idea that there is one person who shares a DNA match, in my head it made you sound like you were related. Nevertheless, it is a great idea for a novel. This is what made me originally request a copy for review. I’m always hopeful for a good thriller.

I really wanted to enjoy this novel, and I did to a point. There are a lot of twists and turns, quite a few I didn’t see coming and that made the novel move faster. It also did a great job of making you want to read on, for the last quarter I needed to finish it and find out what happened. I did care more about what happened to some characters more than others.

The main gripe I had with this is that there were just too many characters and it wasn’t until I was more than halfway through that I could remember who was with who and what their backstory was. There was so much going on it almost felt like a collection of short stories, which maybe it should have been. It seemed like because there were so many characters, by the end, the endings became a little disappointing and some big holes appeared.

Marrs clearly has a talent for suspense and writing violence, that was one of the most well crafted parts of the novel I believe. Each character had been given their own flair, however, it was slightly disappointing that I did see some stereotypes playing out which was quite frustrating because it didn’t really fit with the rest of the novel.

I gave The One 3 stars. Overall this was a good read but ultimately the ending just really let it down for me. That said I would still recommend it but make sure you have time to concentrate because it does get confusing and can be hard to remember exactly that is going on. I would still like to read some of Marr’s other work as he clearly has a talent for writing.

Thank you to the author, publisher and Netgalley for the opportunity to give an honest review.

Book Review: Behind Her Eyes – Sarah Pinborough


Can You Trust Anyone? 

When Louise kisses a gorgeous man at a bar on Friday night, she thinks little of it. After raising a young son alone after a hurtful divorce, she deserves a bit of fun. That is, what she thought was fun until her now boss starts on Monday morning and she realises he’s her mysterious kiss and a married man. While she tries to keep her distance, it’s clear that David hasn’t forgotten. To make matters worse, Louise meets Adele, a young and lonely young woman who’s new to town…she’s also David’s wife. As Louise falls hard into both relationships not all is as it seems. Someone’s playing games, but who?

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Behind Her Eyes for review from the publishers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. It’s been a while since I’ve read a good thriller, after trying so many of the current ‘it’ books I needed something a little different, a little darker. So I was happy when Pinborough’s novel was ready for me to read. The novel moves between Louise and Adele, two very different women who both have an interest in the same man. The closer the women get, however, the darker the novel becomes.

In true thriller fashion, readers are questioning throughout the whole novel who’s telling the truth. As an outside perspective, I feel that most reader will be a few steps further than our characters, or at least they think they will. I will admit that while I didn’t entirely like some of the twists I was hooked. I needed to pick that book up and get it finished, I needed to see how it was going to work out and if my predictions were correct (some were, some weren’t).

I will say there were times when I felt that the did fall into some of the classic thriller tropes that can get fairly annoying. For example, the idea of a marriage that looks perfect to the outside world but is hiding something dark. This has been done so, so many times before and I did bore me at times because it kept being reiterated, particularly in regards to Adele. There was also the situation of two women who are so different but are thrown together in some way and bond. Realistically I could not see Adele and Louise getting along or being anything like one another, which meant I struggled at some point during the novel.

I had to give it three stars as the ending was a little too neat for my tastes. There were elements that, while intriguing and interesting, I felt didn’t really match the rest of the story and could have had a lot more exploration. To some extent, I felt like they were simply thrown in there for shock factor, which wasn’t needed. A good thriller is largely dependent on the ending the author creates and while this wasn’t my favourite ending, it did have an element of surprise.


Book Review: In The Dark In The Woods – Eliza Wass


The woods were insane in the dark, terrifying and magical at the same time. But best of all were the stars, which trumpeted their light into the misty dark.

Castley Cresswell has always is one of The Cresswells. In her town they are outcasts, living in the middle of the woods without modern appliances, clothing or even friends. Along with her brothers, Castley has lived as her father and his messages from god have instructed, although certain things aren’t adding up and as her father becomes increasingly cruel Castley begins to question the world around her.

This was a novel on my Christmas list this year, I’d heard good things about it (although in the US it’s called The Cresswell Plot) it seemed dark with interesting family dynamics. There was also discussion of religious extremism and the lack of challenge towards the children’s father and his methods of ‘punishing them’.

The novel has a combination of mystery, thiller and teenage rebellion. There are five Cresswell children, all under strict rules and ‘guidance’ from their father, including the fact that the family will be God’s chosen people when the time comes, meaning they do not need communication with the outside world. It isn’t until they are forced to go to school, be separated and to be around other young people that they begin to test the limits and see the world for themselves, and rightfully so.

I loved the character of Castley, I loved the natural development of her character as a young woman and as a teenager. There are some elements that are true of all teenagers like  the sweet taste of rebellion, but for Castley this is mixed with a real element of danger. She quickly realises that the danger is no longer from God, if there ever was any, but that her father’s forms of punishment are not the norm. The fact that there is a sense of fear as well as the rebellion makes it more realistic. Castley has obviously lived under her father’s rules for her entire life. A new way of living is both full of fear and hope.

That said, I didn’t want to give the novel 5 stars, simply because I wanted more. I enjoyed the ending but felt that it was very rushed and left a lot of questions unanswered, I just felt incredibly frustrated with the lack of information at the end. I loved the description, the ideas behind the novel and the writing as a whole was brilliant. I would love a second novel to follow on from the ending!

Book Review: The Girl in the Picture – Alexandra Monir


‘Nicole Morgan has been labeled many things — the geeky music girl, the shy sidekick to Miss Popularity, and the girl with the scar. Now only one name haunts her through the halls of Oyster Bay Prep. The Girl in the Picture. After high school heartthrob Chace Porter is found dead in the woods near the school, the police are in search of the girl whose picture with Chace is the only clue found amongst his personal belongings. A girl who no one knew was even close to Chace–and whose dormmate, Lana Rivera, was Chace’s girlfriend. Nicole is that girl and now she’s the primary suspect in his murder. But what really happened that night? Were Nicole and Chace dating behind Lana’s back; were he and Lana over? Could either of them have killed him? Told in alternating points of view, that of our suspect, Nicole Morgan, and her former best friend and roommate, Lana Rivera, readers will piece together the story of a starcrossed love, a fractured friendship–and what really happened the night Chace was killed.’ 

I requested this novel a little while ago and said that in return I would give an honest review about what I thought of the novel. I love a good thriller and this seemed to pull me in, the murder of a loved boy, best friends at war, the mention of a scar, what’s not to love? Set in an exclusive boarding school for the rich and talented the crime rocks them to their core, but would either girl have it in her to murder someone?

I’m sad to admit that this novel was not as I expected, instead of a fast paced thriller with various twists and turns that left me in shock I was left with an ‘okay’ novel which used a lot of YA cliches as well as some quite see through plotlines, which was disappointing. At first, I thought I’d really like Nicole in particular, she seemed smart and approachable as a character, but as the novel wore on I felt increasingly frustrated with her and her plot, it just didn’t seem like she carried on as the same character throughout. This was similar with Lana, however, she appeared to be a stereotype rich bitch girl from the beginning, without a lot of depth or vulnerability to her, which was disappointing.

The plot itself could have worked really well but I just felt that it had so many holes in it. If I’m honest I think it would have worked much better as a longer novel, at many times the plot felt too rushed, like it was crammed into the space of a young adult novel and some things which seemed important were almost completely ignored. There’s not a doubt that Monir has good ideas, but I definitely think this would have worked better as a longer novel, simply because there were so many points where I wanted to know more and wanted to explore the characters, their motives and their backgrounds.

I gave this novel 2 stars. I was really excited to read this but unfortunately, it just didn’t show me anything new in the genre. I worked out quite early on what was happening and there were some things within it that just didn’t make sense or just seemed to fall into place too easily in the story. I definitely think that there was potential here but unfortunately, it was too much like other thrillers that I’ve read and didn’t give me anything new to take away from it.

Sad times!


Book Review: Baby Doll – Hollie Overton


‘A dead bolt has a very specific sound. Lily was an expert at recognizing certain sounds–the creak of the floorboards signaling his arrival, the mice scurrying across the concrete in search for food.’

Held captive for eight years, Lily has grown from a teenager to an adult in a small basement prison. Her daughter Sky has been a captive her whole life. But one day their captor leaves the deadbolt unlocked.This is what happens next…to her twin sister, to her mother, to her daughter…and to her captor.

For a debut novel Hollie Overton has struck gold. I bought this after watching someone on Youtube who had been sent an ARC and intended to read it and I’m so glad I picked it up. I didn’t just read this novel, I devoured it. Reminiscient of Emma Donoghue’s Room, Overton has attempted to capture what life is like after being kidnapped and imprisoned. With similarities to real cases in the media such as Jaycee Duguard, who was imprisoned and gave birth to her captors children, the novel focuses on how Lily can face a world that she hasn’t known for almost a decade.  The most interesting part of the novel, however, is how her return impacts her entire family and how they’ve been living their lives.

The writing is fast paced and appears to be well researched, from Lily’s initial escape to her attempts to reconnect with her family, a world that is fascinated by her and her captor. Speaking of whom, this is the first time I’ve read the perspective of a captor, it was both brilliant and chilling. I felt incredibly uncomfortable reading his side of events and thoughts behind what he had done. While it’s easy to dismiss him as ‘insane’, Overton has breached something that people haven’t before and added to Lily’s torment.

The change in family dynamic and how the lives they have been living impact Lily’s return were incredibly interesting. We don’t normally see what happens when these victims have to go back into the real world and how their families have to learn how to live with their loved ones, when they aren’t the same daughter, sister or granddaughter as they were when they left. Lily and her twin sister are strangers to each other, while Lily is a mother to six-year-old Sky, raised in captivity, Abby has scars of a suicide attempt and is pregnant herself. Reading about the sisters lives and their attempts to come together highlighted the difficulties of these kinds of situations. There were twists and turns that made me gasp in shock and while some have argued that Lily copes too well with what happened to her and the outside world, I feel it highlights that everyone is different. That said, I feel that if one of the subplots had been disregarded there would have been more time for Lily’s recovery within the novel.

I gave this novel 4 out of 5 stars. It’s been a long time since I’ve read a good thriller. This was compared to Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, both of which I thought were terrible, but Baby Doll was a breath of fresh air. The novel dealt with so many different emotions and aspects of this kind of case. While I had mixed feelings about the ending it was different and not something I guessed beforehand (which is such a relief, I’m sick of guessing twists). I’d highly recommend Hollie’s first novel. Is it perfect? No. That said, there are few first novels that are. If you like a good thriller and are looking for something different this is a read for you. Hollie is one to watch.